In the last couple of weeks, I notice a curious trend - lots of newbies contacting me privately to vote for their stuff, submit their posts to Curie, in exchange for something or the other. I've even seen people jump into Curie chat to announce they are following @curie's trail and now they expect votes from Curie in return. When asking why, I learned that there are many curation initiatives of late that trade votes in return for something. That could be a follow, joining a trail, collusive voting, sharing rewards, or just outright paying them. This is of course the expected effect of a free market, and I encourage all such initiatives. Personally, there's no way I can be involved in such curation efforts.
A brief history of the market of creativity
The unusual thing about the arts or any creative profession is, there's no objective measure for success. Everything's dictated by subjective opinion. To make things murkier, there are often middlemen who don't understand what the artists desire, or what the consumers demand.
For millennia, the arts were financed not by the public, but by patrons of the arts. Artists had absolute creative freedom to push the boundaries of their medium. Through the renaissance, we saw spectacular creative works in all fields - whether it be painting, sculpture, music or literature. Many of these remain unmatched to this very day, which is strange because pretty much every other field has advanced significantly since then.
Some European and East Asian countries' governments subsidize the arts, which is why we've seen some European cinema, music, TV, theatre etc far surpass their American counterparts. Of course, that's a subjective opinion, but hey - this is a personal rant.
A corrupt free market could stifle creativity
So, what happens when the free market meets the Arts? Banal, rubbish content that's repeated over and over again. Particularly in the 80s and 90s, it was in the doldrums. The producers and financiers misguidedly assumed what the consumers wanted, while the consumers had to settle for bullshit. The artists were frustrated, and eventually had to give into the corrupt system.
Fortunately, things have improved, particularly with the internet. It is helping in bridging the gap between the artist and the consumer. There's still a long way to go, of course. This is the type of free market, free of middlemen, that might just work for creative professions. Of course, this requires the artists and consumers alike to mature. And that's where the problem with Steem lies.
We don't have artists as much as opportunists looking to cash in with zero regard for expressing creativity. This'll never be a fun publishing platform till people are incentivized to create engaging content, rather than make a quick buck. If that's the direction Steem takes, that's quite alright, but it's not what I joined Steem for. I joined because the decentralization has the potential to cut out the middlemen, connect the creator to their audience. I joined it to be entertained, to have fun.
To be clear, there are lots of great authors here. Particularly in the last couple of weeks, I've seen hundreds of seasoned bloggers and vloggers with great content stream in. They have my votes.
So, I will only vote on content that I like, that engages me in some way. It can be a silly meme, it can be a groundbreaking academic paper. But I will never vote for your post if you offer me something in exchange.
Finally, please note that this is a rant, please don't be offended or take it too seriously.
Addendum - I also wanted to address the social aspect, as I get it - someone will bring that up. All that's fine, but I would argue if your only communication with people is trading votes, that's not really being social, is it? I also understand, the free market is brutal, one does what they can to get an advantage. No problem there. Personally, I don't believe in such short term measures, and historically the great artists have always been those who have stuck their instincts. While I'm no artist, as a curator I'll stick to my convictions. At the same time, I'll respect yours, but urge you to think longer term.